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Shakespeare’s Sonnets from Magnusson’s Perspective

In this essay, Lynne Magnusson addresses the conventional standards concerning Shakespeare’s sonnets and the image of a high-status beautiful lady who is usually associated with his lyrical poetry. The author argues that a beloved “he” becomes the quintessence of personal feelings, including the sexual desire and emotional attachment to a character. While a woman represents a dark creature that has neither beauty nor innocence, Magnusson states, the sonnets are at the same time full of unrealistic and ironic compliments that hardly relate to the reality in which the malicious dependence on a female is a burden. In this context, love for a young and beautiful man stands in contrast with the existing order.

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The author draws readers’ attention to the “personalized I” introduced by Shakespeare. She disagrees with the scholars who treat his sonnets as the embodiment of universal emotions and puts forward the idea that the personality expressed in utterances plays a significant role. Magnusson emphasizes several innovations that make Shakespeare an outstanding figure, and one of them is the way he used pronouns to convey every hint of relationships between characters that may even be omitted by an inexperienced reader. The author underlines that third-person pronouns traditionally followed “I” in the poetry of that epoch. Shakespeare revolutionized the contents of a sonnet and other pieces of writing since he introduced the frequent usage of the second person or direct address.

In this respect, the author of the essay provides the analysis of the way Shakespeare used pronouns in his works. She argues that “thou” and “you” were registered as frequently as “I” because the poet ignores the static course of the text and prefers the form of conversation that is closely connected with the real communication. In other words, poetry becomes a means of conversation, even though a beloved person is not always addressed directly. Magnusson connects this idea with the image of a young male lover and recognizes it as the impossibility to reveal with whom a character converses. However, she provides evidence that another feature, the relationships in the context of the social status issues, can be described with accuracy.

According to Magnusson, the complexity of relationships between people who belong to different social groups is emphasized by the usage of second-person pronouns. On the one hand, “you” refers to the social inequality between communicators, power, and patronage, and “thou” and all its forms indicate that people are emotionally attached to each other or, at least, a character has deep feelings for a person to whom they address. However, the author of the article proves that the situation is not simple. She gives the example of the lines in which the shift in the usage of pronouns can also transfer personal feelings.

Overall, this essay demonstrates the alternative opinion concerning Shakespeare’s sonnets. Lynne Magnusson considers the innovations in the use of language and proves that the poet concentrated on the personification of his lyrical poetry, and the usage of “personalized I” and second-person pronouns is telling.

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StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Shakespeare’s Sonnets from Magnusson’s Perspective'. 27 October.

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